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The Military Government The Almighty Buck United States

The Pentagon's $399 Billion Plane To Nowhere 364

schwit1 writes with an update on the U.S. government's troubled F-35 program, the cost of which keeps rising while the planes themselves are grounded. A fire in late June caused officials to halt flights for the entire fleet of $112 million vehicles last week. Despite this, Congress is still anxious to push the program forward, and Foreign Policy explains why: Part of that protection comes from the jaw-dropping amounts of money at stake. The Pentagon intends to spend roughly $399 billion to develop and buy 2,443 of the planes. However, over the course of the aircrafts' lifetimes, operating costs are expected to exceed $1 trillion. Lockheed has carefully hired suppliers and subcontractors in almost every state to ensure that virtually all senators and members of Congress have a stake in keeping the program — and the jobs it has created — in place. "An upfront question with any program now is: How many congressional districts is it in?" said Thomas Christie, a former senior Pentagon acquisitions official. Counting all of its suppliers and subcontractors, parts of the program are spread out across at least 45 states. That's why there's no doubt lawmakers will continue to fund the program even though this is the third time in 17 months that the entire fleet has been grounded due to engine problems."
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The Pentagon's $399 Billion Plane To Nowhere

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  • by Onuma ( 947856 ) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @05:56PM (#47419775)
    The F-35 replaced the A-10 Thunderbolt II's role as a tank buster, CAS bomber...

    With the money we have spent on the F-35s to date, we could have repaired, retrofitted, and maintained our supply of A-10s for several decades. Hell, the A-10 is practically a flying tank. It has some of the best armament and is the most rugged fixed-wing aircraft which America has. It was a ridiculously short-sighted move to replace it with another overexpensive "multi role, joint" fighter.
  • by epyT-R ( 613989 ) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @06:01PM (#47419851)

    Careful. Short term discomfort lasted 70 years for the soviets. The government needs to stop inflating the currency, fix the tax code so that each tax is justified for one specific case, with all funds directed to that case, close the loopholes for the wealthy, pay off the debt, and then lower the unneeded tax once that's done. Basically it needs to work within a budget like the rest of us.

    These F35s are way too expensive to be useful in a battle. China would throw 10x as many half assed shitboxes and still win. They need to be cheap and reliable. These F35s are expensive and failure prone, like a lot of products today. "The more they over do the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain".

  • Capabilities (Score:5, Interesting)

    by neonv ( 803374 ) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @06:04PM (#47419887)

    This article doesn't mention the incredible upgrades of the F-35. It has incredible situational awareness (SA), highly networked to acquire SA from all sources, sensors onboard to provide SA, smaller that the F-22, more stealthy, and a range of other characteristics that the pentagon desires (wiki []). Those capabilities are the top reason for the F-35 to exist at all. As development has progressed, then the money problems and failures came up as they always do. The capability needs don't justify the failures of the program, but they need to be taken into consideration when there's talk of changing or canceling the program.

    Everyone has a different concern. Congressmen are probably concerned about money staying in their state to stay elected. The Pentagon is worried about capability and not being embarrassed over a big failure. The tax payers are worried about not wasting money and some of them about keeping an F-35 job. It's a complicated issue with lots of caveats.

  • by suutar ( 1860506 ) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @06:18PM (#47420023)

    what's ironic is that one of China's more recent models appears to be based on the F-35 but without the attempt at VTOL hampering the other design goals and running up the cost.

  • by Savage-Rabbit ( 308260 ) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @06:46PM (#47420301)

    Everybody with an IQ above that of a jellybean knows the main job of the congresscritters is to bring back the pork. The blue guys do it and the red guys do it.

    The reason they can keep doing it and no one really gives a shit is because once you explain to Joe Schmoe that cutting program X or agency Y's budget means he or his cousin or his drinking buddy could lose their job, well Joe can rationalize keeping that program.

    Americans all want pork cut everywhere except their home district. We are short sighted, have short memories, and aren't willing to endure short term discomfort in the pursuit of long term prosperity.

    Anyone candidate that would be for cutting this kind of corporate welfare isn't viable on a national ticket. Eisenhower was right about this all by the way.

    Eisenhower was also right to be suspicious of 'think tanks', 'intelligence experts' and 'analysts'. One of the reasons he first pushed the U-2 program and then Corona was because 'expert intelligence tanalysts' told him the Soviets had Over 800 Myasishchev M-4 'Bison' bombers. Reconnaissance later revealed that the grand total strenght of the Soviet B-4 bomber force at the time was 20 aircraft, in fact one U-2 actually managed to catch the entire B-4 fleet in a single photograph. By the time Eisenhowers insistance on hard reconnaissance finally won out the USA had built hundreds of bombers to bridge an imaginary 'bomber gap'.

  • by Savage-Rabbit ( 308260 ) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @07:36PM (#47420661)

    Drawing comparisons to WWII is ironic, because the F-35 program is exactly the kind of program that the US did not invest in during the war. A program that consumed lots of resources on the promise of radical advances without delivering anything actually useful onto the battlefield now.

    Germany in contrast, spent lots of time on such projects even into the final desperate days.

    The Nazi leadership was blinded by the "grass is greener beyond the next hill" syndrome. If they had put the Heinkel 280 which first flew in 1941 into production and put some serious resources into making the HeS-8 and HeS-30 engines reliable enough for service they'd have had a workable jet fighter in 1943 with less of a performance advantage than the Me-262 but that would still have mopped the floor with most of the Allied opposition at the time. The Nazis failed to understand that fielding a mediocre jet fighter in time is better than fielding an outstanding one when it is too late. They were defeated by their aversion towards doing what Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond called "...the most un-German thing possible, a half-assed job".

  • by Luckyo ( 1726890 ) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @11:19PM (#47421829)

    Point one: I'm looking at it from the point of view of other countries. I readily concede the fact that US will never buy a French jet, even if it's far better suited for the role. It took immense amount of wrangling just to get Harrier in, even though it literally had no alternatives.

    Your second point is moot. F-35's commonality is reported at around thirty percent today, and it's likely to go down rather than up as development continues. This is actually one of the biggest failures in the program, and was widely reported.

    Your third point is extremely debatable. F-35's stealth is already been reported to be exceptionally lacking in all but frontal hemispheres, and in addition to that it has very little in terms of payload when it's stealthy. It needs to have external hardpoints (read: no stealth from any direction) for any meaningful strike package for example, or to have a meaningful range which it woefully lacks.

    So we go back to point one, which as I admitted, I readily concede. But in that regard, there is one point that is being argued in US today: that F-35 program should be scrapped and in its place US should develop three separate fighters (because of point #2 being proven largely failed today). This would get all users an aircraft that is actually at least decent for the designed purpose, instead of an abortion of an aircraft in all usage scenarios that F-35 is increasingly proven to be.

  • by TomGreenhaw ( 929233 ) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @11:21PM (#47421833)
    While your post is a bit off-topic, in essence its all about national defense.

    You raise a lot of good questions.

    Q) why should the US help arriving children?
    A) Because we can. Isn't it right to keep children safe? That doesn't mean they get to stay here, but we want to treat them the way we wish our children would be treated.

    Q) Why exactly do people expect the US to accept illegal immigrants?
    A) Its hard to take someone "demanding that we accept illegal immigration" seriously. That said, we are a nation of immigrants. Deep down inside, most of us recognize the hypocrisy of denying immigration to those who want to live in the United States. Its obviously too hard for people to immigrate legally or they wouldn't risk their lives to come here. We should be flattered that people want to become Americans. There is plenty of room here for people who are willing to work and contribute at least as much as they take.

    Q) If you're going to accept every person who shows up at the border, then why even have a country?
    A) This is a very good question. Nationalism may be becoming obsolete. We are all human and basically want the same things. Technologies like air travel, the internet and global commerce are blurring boundaries.
  • by Luckyo ( 1726890 ) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @11:26PM (#47421851)

    Unfortunately much of that is outright lie. Lockheed Martin specifically sold F-35 to other countries under the umbrella of "you can replace all your fighter, attack and close combat support aircraft with this one machine". This is why they got so many countries on board with financing in spite of having no aircraft to show for it.

    This has since been proven to be false, to the point where several countries like Australia have opted to buy other aircraft like F/A-18E/F models to replacing their aging fleets instead of F-35 after failures of F-35 became evident.

    As for "design goals" as it comes to F-35, is there really anyone still having that discussion, other than Lockheed Martin shills? We already know they failed at meeting essentially all of them, and design requirements had to be continuously reduced so that aircraft would have at least some chance of meeting them. Knowledge of this is widely available in mass media.

Competence, like truth, beauty, and contact lenses, is in the eye of the beholder. -- Dr. Laurence J. Peter